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Discrimination in Employment Layoffs During COVID-19

Workplace Discrimination Concept

The novel coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy. Supply chains have suffered interruptions, shops were forced to shutter their doors for months on end, and employees have needed significantly more sick days to avoid spreading the virus. Many businesses have been forced to downsize as a means of cost-cutting, even with government efforts like the Paycheck Protection Program meant to curb layoffs. Unfortunately, some employers have used COVID-19 financial concerns as a pretext to terminate employees for more sinister reasons. Below, we discuss a few forms of wrongful termination and workplace discrimination that have been areas of special concern during the pandemic. If you believe you’ve been fired unlawfully, or if you suspect unlawful discrimination in your workplace, call a seasoned Riverside workplace discrimination and wrongful termination lawyer for help.

Studies Show Racial Gap, Gender Gap in COVID-Era Layoffs

A number of recent studies have taken a hard look at labor market statistics during the novel coronavirus pandemic. As many companies have experienced significant layoffs, sociological researchers looked to determine whether there were any troublesome patterns in those layoffs, or if any groups have been disproportionately affected by COVID-era problems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, certain groups have been hit harder than others.

A Tufts University article entitled The Racial Gap in Employment and Layoffs during COVID-19 in the United States: A Visualization, for example, used regression modeling to compare gaps in employment during the calendar year 2020 across different racial and gender divides. The author found a “strong white male advantage in the likelihood of being laid off for post-outbreak months compared with women, black men, Hispanic men, and Asian men.” Non-white persons and women were significantly more likely to suffer layoffs.

The author noted in particular that “the racial gap in employment between white and black men increased by 43.7 percent (from 10.3 percent to 14.8 percent),” the gap between white men and Hispanic men more than doubled, and the gap between white men and Asian men increased by 2.3 times. Among women, the racial gap was even more pronounced: The racial gap between white women and black women tripled, while other racial gaps were similarly exacerbated. Whether the gaps were based on intentional discrimination or broader structural issues is not clear, but the numbers clearly show a problem.

Any employer that targeted protected groups for layoffs may be held liable for wrongful termination and unlawful discrimination. If you believe you were terminated based on your race, gender, or other protected characteristic, or if you believe your employer targeted certain groups in their layoffs, talk to a labor and employment attorney about your options for relief.

Age Discrimination and Pretextual Layoffs

Age discrimination has also been a significant area of concern for COVID-19-era layoffs. Companies that use the pandemic as an excuse to fire older employees because they are higher salary-earners or are nearing retirement age may be committing unlawful age discrimination.

California and federal laws protect workers who are age 40 or over from adverse employment actions taken based on their age. If you’ve been included in a round of layoffs and you are within the protected age group, consider whether there is any evidence of discriminatory practices. Circumstances that can give rise to age discrimination concerns include:

  • The layoffs disproportionately targeted older, more experienced employees
  • Company emails or comments from supervisors about workers being old, “out-of-touch,” or “slow,” or about a need to have a “young,” “vibrant,” or “revitalized” workforce
  • Job postings placed by the employer to fill the same positions after the layoffs that appeared to target a younger audience
  • New hires to replace laid-off employees that are disproportionately younger, especially if they were hired soon after the “necessary” layoffs
  • The company was not struggling financially, despite the pandemic, and chose to conduct mass layoffs of certain groups regardless

If you have any cause to believe that your company fired employees because of their age, or for any other unlawful reason–race, gender, sexual orientation, pregnancy, etc.–consult with a California labor law attorney. Discrimination can be difficult to spot and harder to prove; an experienced workplace discrimination lawyer can help you root it out. You may have grounds for a wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuit on your behalf, or you may be able to bring a whistleblower claim on behalf of the government and your fellow workers.

Reach Out to an Experienced California Labor Lawyer for Help Seeking Compensation After an Unlawful Firing

For help recovering damages after a wrongful termination in Southern California, call Ochoa & Calderón to discuss your case with a skilled, passionate California labor and employment attorney. Call 951-901-4444 in Riverside or 844-401-0750 toll-free throughout Southern California.

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